“Sophomore Slump” is a term used in many sports to describe a condition that causes rookie phenoms to tail off in their second years. Don’t bother telling that to Once In a Lifetime. Pennsylvania’s champion freshman male trotter has launched his three-year-old campaign with what might be called a “Sophomore Strut” — two victories in as many races.
He’ll be looking to extend that streak when he headlines the field in Saturday’s (June 3) Hickory Smoke, a $142,946 PA Sire Stakes at The Meadows. The 13-race card also features a $60,000 PA Stallion Series event for three-year-old colt and gelding trotters. First post is 12:45 p.m.
A $50,000 yearling acquisition, Once In a Lifetime rolled to earnings exceeding $226,000 as a freshman, but he hit a speed bump in two late-season stakes at the Red Mile, finishing seventh and sixth.
“He scoped with mucous after that first race there,” said Jim Campbell, who trains the son of Father Patrick-Sherrys Lady for Sad Frog Farms. “We thought we had it cleared up, but bringing him back in a week against horses of that caliber wasn’t a good idea.”
Campbell reports that the colt has come back “about the same as he was last year.”
“He was pretty laid back last year. He’s kept that same composure. And he has a very good gait,” said Campbell.
So far this year, the champ has captured a tough overnight at Harrah’s Philadelphia and a PA All-Stars division at Pocono, where he took his lifetime mark of 1:53.3. Campbell seldom over-touts the talent and potential of his young horses, but he allows that Once In a Lifetime is eligible to most of the season’s rich stakes — including the Hambletonian. If he gets that far, he’ll give Campbell the chance to go back-to-back in the sport’s most prestigious race; he won it last year when 52-1 Cool Papa Bell pulled off the biggest upset in Hambletonian history.
“The Hambletonian is a tough one to win, but when it does happen, it’s an unbelievable feeling,” said Campbell.
Once In a Lifetime will go from post three in race five with Ronnie Wrenn Jr. piloting.
Also in that division is Crantini (post five, Scott Zeron), another of the state’s top twp-year-olds who chased Once In a Lifetime home in the PASS championship and their PA All-Stars split, finishing second on both occasions. Megan Scran, who conditions the International Moni-Peach Martini gelding for Thestable Crantini Group, said she didn’t throw up her hands and curse the Racing Gods after seeing that the draw pitted Crantini against Once In A Lifetime again.
“We haven’t seen the best of Crantini yet,” she said, noting that he’s Hambletonian eligible. “It’s early in the year and we’re not going to the well with him yet.”
However, she says the chestnut Crantini is “sometimes his own worst enemy.”
“What kind of tricks does he pull? Any one you can think of. You never know what shade of red he’ll be on any given day.”
(Meadows Standardbred Owners Association)